Press TV has conducted an interview with Carol Gould, a London-based author and political commentator, to discuss the issue of several sex scandals gripping the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
The following is a rough transcription of the interview.
Press TV: In your perspective, why do we see so many well-known people being involved in this type of abuses and all of them somehow related to the BBC?
Gould: Well, as Alan Hart said in the recorded segment, the huge fame and success and high ratings that were generated by these people including Paul Gambaccini who is in many parts of this country a household name… My phone did not stop ringing last night. Everyone ringing, ‘did you hear about Paul Gambaccini?’ And Jimmy Saville, again a household name; almost like a God to many viewers who would look forward to watching “Jimmy’ll Fix It” every week had huge ratings. And he also raised a huge amount of money for charities.
So these people wielded power and if somebody was in a room with Jimmy Savile and he began to take liberties with them, the person would think ‘oh, I cannot tell anyone! This is Jimmy Savile.’ It is a very interesting sociological and psychological reaction that young people, people who are in awe of celebrities would say ‘oh but I must not tell anyone!’
There is a similar story I really would like you to allow me a minute to tell you about a very big story in the US, in the USA, that has run concurrently with this story. Interestingly enough it has not been reported here. I think Alan [Hart] will know about it.
Jerry Sandusky, the coach of Penn State University football team which is a legendary team in America and after about twenty-five years it suddenly came out that he was molesting boys. And Joe Paterno who was the head of Penn State football – who was like a God in America – a household name, was brought down by this. And in fact, Jerry Sandusky still being alive -unlike Jimmy Savile- is now doing decades in prison having been convicted of molesting, attacking, and ruining the lives of scores of boys.
So it is a phenomenon that is difficult to understand.
Press TV: So, Carol, what does it say if you agree with Alan Hart [the other guest of the program]? Is it that the ratings game is more important than as far as the credibility, especially when we are talking about situations where these individuals had very easy access to minors?
Gould: Well, as I said before as in the same case with Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky at Penn State University, this was a national story in the US that ran for months that these people were larger than life. They were legends, they were household names and also Penn State University football games got the highest ratings of any sport program on American television. Whenever Penn State played, the television network made a fortune.
So, Alan is right about the fact that Jimmy Savile was highly successful and had high ratings during a time when many programs were not in any way as successful as “Jimmy’ll Fix It”.
So, yes. I think there was a tremendous feeling at the BBC to keep him going, keep him supported. It is extraordinary to me as a woman that no one ever complained about Jimmy Savile all those decades. I, as a woman, if someone had taken liberties with me as a young woman, I would have reported it. But obviously anybody who came into contact with him, who had a bad experience with him kept quiet. So it could have possibly been because of the culture at the time.
Remember, culture has changed in the past ten years. There is a much more free talk about sex and about abuse in recent years. But in those years, 60s, 70s, 80s, people were afraid to talk about it and it is extraordinary to me that it went on for so long.
But as Alan said, Jimmy Savile was the big draw. He drew huge audiences.
Press TV: Well, let’s look at that, Carol Gould. Some of our viewers said, do you think that the BBC should actually pay a price for this or at least try to do some internal investigation, have some people fired? Tell me your take on this.
Our viewer was talking about it and comparing that how the government has basically blocked Press TV, for example, from the UK and other places but when it comes to the BBC itself, it appears that they just look another way for obviously very very serious abuses.
Gould: In the past year, the BBC has come under scrutiny also because of the vast amounts of license payers’ money being paid out to various executives. We are talking about tens of millions of pounds for people’s pensions, for people who are retiring and also to some of the presenters. The staggering salaries and fees have been paid out and that has caused consternation amongst many viewers, amongst license payers.
I think it is up to the powers of the judicial system and the government to decide -as you say- whether the BBC should be punished. We will see what happens.
And as Alan said, it is possible that the police colluded with this situation and they did not act responsibly. So the amount of crime that apparently has been committed not just by Savile but by many other people is a very serious breach of trust by the BBC.
And it is apparent – the first man who wrote the Facebook message about the Vatican, it is apparent to many viewers that perhaps the BBC should be shut down but I do not think it will ever happen. It is too massive and too greatly loved an institution. It does do good things, too.
Press TV: What about what our guest [Alan Hart] just said? Do you think that the BBC now will look internally, go deep and actually perform an investigative analysis of themselves? Are they capable of being fair and honest in investigating themselves?
Gould: Yes, I think they will have to. I think the government will have to put its foot down about this. I mean there is the issue in the blogosphere people blogging in the last few months about Jill Dando who was a BBC Crimewatch presenter who was murdered outside her home in 1999. And there are people even saying – this may sound completely outlandish- Jimmy Savile always said to people for decades ‘anybody who comes after me, I have my hit man’ and even said ‘IRA hit man’.
And there are people who are now saying maybe Jill Dando was looking into some suspicions she had heard about Jimmy Savile. Her murder has never been solved. And now that we are hearing all these extraordinary and really quite lurid things about Jimmy Savile, there are people who say they would not put anything past him.
But yes, the BBC has got to clean up its act, investigate all of these allegations and really change its attitude.
There is the element of arrogance. I am sure Alan Hart will agree with me. All of this has to do with arrogance of a major institution and he is absolutely right as well about the NHS [the National Health Service].
Press TV: How does this affect the credibility factor now as far as the public’s ability to trust? Is this going to affect or change the way the public sees these individuals’ credibility in general?
Gould: I think that the general public has been upset and offended not just by all of these scandals but also by the fact that it came about -as I said before- that so many BBC people have been paid enormous amounts of money from license payers.
But when you look at the whole picture, the BBC is still greatly loved. It still does programs that get enormous ratings. There are programs like ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ which get huge ratings and excellent documentaries and drama series and also ‘Newsnight’ and various news programs like ‘Question Time’.
So, there are many people of great integrity within the BBC. So let us not paint the picture of a horrendous company full of horrendous people but you are absolutely right.
It does appear to me that the public’s trust in the BBC has been greatly damaged and generally in the people in the public eye. We have people like Max Cliffon who have been accused of these various activities. And the public has lost trust in public figures as in the United States with Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky whose sporting role was greatly damaged by that scandal about the abuse of small boys.
So, the BBC does need to regain a considerable amount of trust but I do not think it is ruined by this.